If you are just getting interested in taking a western hunting trip elk hunting is probably high on your list, and rightfully so! Hearing bugling bulls and climbing mountains is incredibly different from sitting in a treestand chasing whitetails, and taking an elk hunting trip was a dream of mine for years. Unfortunately, I previously believed I had to spend a lot of money and years building preference points to have the opportunity to hunt elk, and nothing could be further from the truth! If you want to elk hunt this fall, one opportunity worth considering is a trip to hunt Colorado OTC Elk.
Hunting OTC Colorado Elk
Colorado has the largest elk population of any state, and many of their units can be hunted with a tag you can buy over-the-counter. In Colorado OTC elk units, you can purchase a license for either the archery, second rifle, or third rifle season. Not all units are open for both archery and rifle seasons, so be sure to check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations. Archery season takes place in September during the rut, and the second and third rifle seasons are in late October and early November. Colorado OTC elk units also have a first and fourth rifle season, but these are limited to hunters who draw a tag in the lottery.
For those wishing to hunt the archery season, you can purchase a bull-only or either sex tag. So, be sure to buy the either sex tag, as they cost the same as bull-only and afford you the opportunity to take a cow lat in the hunt! Some units also have cow only tags available, if you aren’t interested in chasing a bull. With a few limited exceptions, rifle season tags are bull-only. Many of the OTC units have antler point restrictions, limiting bull harvests to those with at least 4 points on one antler.
License and tag costs are one of the biggest considerations when taking a hunting trip, and Colorado OTC elk tags offer are moderately priced. 2020 nonresident bull or either-sex tags cost $670.25, and nonresident cow tags cost $503.12, and both of these tags include a fishing license. Although additional licenses are not required, I would consider purchasing a small-game license for $82.78, if you are archery hunting. You will likely see grouse every day while hunting, and I regret not buying the small-game license for my 2019 bow hunt!
My 2019 OTC Experience
Last September I traveled west to hunt Colorado OTC elk. Although I would have enjoyed a rifle hunt, I was drawn by the allure of hunting bugling bulls, and hunting during bow season afford me that opportunity. I hunted with a group of friends, and we spent a little over a week in the mountains.
Hunting pressure can be an issue in Colorado, but we used the onX Hunt app to locate areas that had terrain features most hunters wouldn’t choose to cross. On day four of the hunt, we crossed a large boulder field into a basin several miles from the road. A few of the guys in our group got into the elk, and one of them harvested a satellite bull that came running to their call!
Having realistic expectations is necessary on this hunt. All of us were planning to harvest the first legal elk we had a shot opportunity at. Although we had close encounters with two big bulls, I think setting low harvest standards is a great approach for new elk hunters wanting to have a decent opportunity at success.
Elk hunting isn’t easy, and the feeling of satisfaction we all had while packing a bull off the mountain was something I’ll always remember. With that said, we heard elk most days we hunted and there are certainly great bulls harvested every year in Colorado OTC elk units. If you’re interested in hearing more about our hunt, we recorded a two part podcast series during the trip, during which we discussed the strategies and gear we used. Listen to that below!
Don’t wait to draw a glory tag to hunt elk. Elk hunting is way too much fun to only do once or twice in a lifetime, and OTC hunting provides you the chance to chase them every year you have the time. A few hundred dollars for a tag and sheer determination are all that stand between you and chasing bulls this fall!